2020 was the year our services at Stories naturally progressed to include live streaming as well. As one of the photo curators for our blog, I now see more images of family members holding devices with their loved ones on screen during group photos and such. Technology has definitely become the only bridge for many of us who have friends and family across the globe.
However, experiencing what it’s like to be a virtual guest at my brother’s wedding made me really appreciate the wonders of hybrid events! The livestream was casually set up by someone else using Zoom in this case, but it still made me see how a wedding like this involves more than just cool technology. It takes thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and everyone to play their role.
Here’s what I learned about the art of live streamed weddings, as a virtual wedding guest.
1. Different camera angles make all the difference
The couple had made the effort to provide two camera angles for us virtual guests to enjoy. One was placed at the aisle, so we could get a close up of their expressions as they made their vows. What an honour! The other was at the corner, giving us a wider view of the whole stage and the first row of guests who were physically present. It was nice to see the crowd’s reaction even from behind. It felt “like the real thing”.
2. Different screen angles make all the difference too
We had about 75 or more people attending the wedding virtually from all over the world. The bride and groom’s fathers were also virtual guests due to the travel ban. Because of this, their speeches were part of the ceremony instead of later at the reception. I noticed there was a monitor screen and a camera facing the couple so there could be eye contact during the speeches. There was also a larger TV screen facing the physical audience so that everyone could see their fathers’ facial expressions as they made their heartfelt speeches. That was really meaningful for us to witness.
3. Sound checks and dry runs are necessary
As virtual guests, we heard the father of the bride’s speech perfectly fine since he was using the same platform as well. However halfway through, there was a bit of a commotion at the wedding. He wasn’t sure what was going on, so he merely continued. We later heard there was a sound issue and the first half of his speech could not be heard by the audience at the physical wedding. A sound check and dry run with all key people involved beforehand (even the ones attending virtually) helps to avoid situations like this. Of course, unforeseen circumstances do happen. So perhaps one best practice for anyone dialling in virtually to make a speech is to begin by asking, “Can anyone hear me? Is my mic loud and clear?”.
4. The importance of an emcee or facilitator for virtual guests
As mentioned earlier, many virtual guests were located in different time zones with people staying up at 2am and even 4am on their side of the globe to attend. Unfortunately, the wedding was delayed by about 30 minutes. That meant 30 minutes of us staring in silence at an empty stage on screen, wondering what was going on! No one complained, but it did feel awkward to be honest, as there were many unfamiliar faces on the same virtual platform (we had all kept our cameras switched on because we dressed up to support the bride and groom). It would have been nice to have a designated facilitator to keep the chat box lively with updates, introduce extended family members from each side if possible, and maybe even facilitate a simple ice breaker among the virtual guests. These are just some ideas on how to bring the fuller wedding experience to virtual guests as well.
5. A ‘Virtual usher” may come in handy for group photos
We had group photos with the bride and groom at the end of the ceremony. This involved their photographer who was physically present and also just a series of screenshots with different groups of people on screen. At first, virtual guests were asked to find their own groups by clicking on their respective breakout room on the platform. This proved quite the challenge for folks who were not savvy with the tech. In the end, someone quickly took over and assigned all 75 virtual guests to their respective breakout rooms. That was helpful!
Like so many people in 2020 onwards, we really wished we could have been there with my brother and his wife as they got married in a different country. But even then, the wedding was beautiful and so enjoyable to watch nonetheless. It also had its perks. My parents are from different countries, so this wedding allowed distant relatives from my fathers side to meet those on my mothers side for the first time ever, virtually!